Teen sailor Laura Dekker completes first leg of solo circumnavigation

Dutch teenager Laura Dekker completed the first leg of her attempt to sail into the record books a few days back when she completed a solo sail across the Atlantic, reaching the island of St. Maarten in the process. The 15 year old is attempting to set a new record for the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Dekker has been hoping to make this voyage since she was 13, but her departure was delayed on more than one occasion by the Dutch government. Earlier this year they relented however, and granted her permission to sail after she demonstrated her skills and made a commitment to keeping up with her education.

The voyage officially began back in August when she sailed from the Netherlands to Gibraltar before proceeding on to the Canary Islands. Laura then spent two months there getting her 38-foot yacht, affectionately named Guppy, ready for the journey ahead. She also used that time to wait out the hurricane season before beginning her crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

On December 2 she left the Cape Verde Islands, off the west coast of Africa, en route to the Caribbean. It took her 17 days to cover the 2200 nautical miles, arriving in St. Maarten this past Sunday. Dekker described the voyage as “a very nice trip.”

She’ll now spend some time in the Caribbean, sailing the islands and exploring the region before moving on to her next big leg. She says she doesn’t have any set plan at the moment, but hopes to cross through the Panama Canal, and on to the Pacific, in April or May.

Ah, the idle days of youth. Sailing the high seas, exploring tropical paradises, and seeing the world. My teen age years were much like this. And by much like this, I mean not at all.

[Photo credit: AP]

Teen sailor Jessica Watson barred from race

Jessica Watson, the Australian teenager who made headlines earlier this year by becoming the youngest person to ever circumnavigate the globe, has been barred from sailing in an upcoming yacht race because she doesn’t meet the age requirements for the event.

Watson, who completed her round-the-world voyage back in May, had hoped to compete in the Sydney to Hobart sailing race that will get underway on December 26th, but her application was denied because she is just 17 years old. The organizers of the race require that all participants be at least 18 years of age.

The annual race, which is a popular event in Australia, begins in the Sydney Harbor, and plays out over the Tasman Sea and Storm Bay before coming to an end in the city of Hobart on the island of Tasmania. This will be the 66th running of the yacht race, which typically takes about three days to complete and crosses through 725 miles of treacherous waters. Just how treacherous? Back in 1998, a deadly accident occurred during the event which killed six sailors and prompted officials to institute the minimum age policy.

While Jessica has expressed disappointment in not being able to sail in the event, she says that it will give her more time to prepare for next year’s race. She had hoped to set out with a crew of young teenage sailors who could join her on her latest adventure on the high seas, but instead she’ll watch from the sideline as 99 other ships, some as long as 100 feet and sporting crews of more than a thousand, will race for the championship.

[Photo credit: Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race]

Kiwi sailor sets new speed record for crossing the Northwest Passage

The Northwest Passage has often been a source of endless fascination amongst sailors. For centuries Explorers searched for the route, hoping to find a faster, more efficient, way to reach the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic by sailing through the Arctic, north of Canada. For most of that time, that route was sealed shut thanks to endless miles of ice, but in recent years, warmer temperatures have allowed the route to open to ship traffic for the first time, which has caused a number of daring souls to challenge those treacherous waters.

Amongst the ships making the journey this year was the Astral Express, captained by Graeme Kendall out of New Zealand. Kendall was hoping to complete the voyage that he first attempted back in 2005, but was forced to abandon thanks to thick pack ice. This year, the Kiwi not only finished what he started five years ago, he set a new record in the process.

Kendall’s journey began when he entered the Passage at Lancaster Sound, along the Atlantic side, back on August 27th. It then took him just 12 days to navigate the route to Barrow, Alaska, finishing on Sept. 9th, officially exiting the Passage on to the Pacific side. Those 12 days represent a new speed record for the fastest solo crossing of the passage, and local authorities believe that it may be the fastest of any ship, including those with a full crew.

For Kendall, completing the Northwest Passage is just the first stage of a planned circumnavigation attempt of the planet, which will cover more than 18,000 miles when it is finished.

[Photo credit: Graeme Kendall]